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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Jan 3, 2017 11 min read

Earned Attention Vs. Rented Attention: Why Inbound Marketing Works

Earned Attention Fuels Scalable, Repeatable And Predictable Inbound Marketing Lead Generation

Earned Attention Is Inbound MarketingThere are a variety of definitions for inbound marketing, but at its core inbound requires you to earn your prospects’ attention instead of renting it.

Here’s what I mean. If you buy advertising  like a print ad, a radio spot or space at a trade show — you’re renting the audience of the magazine, radio station or conference company. You pay to get your name or message in front of those potential prospects once. Very rarely do you get the names or contact information for those people; you simply get access to them. The rest is up to you. This is what we’re calling rented attention.

On the other hand, if you publish high-quality content, create a compelling educational website, work to have your content (or site) found in the search engines and provide your content to other related websites, you have the potential to earn your prospects' attention because you provided value, insight or educational information that helps them with their goals. The marketing described here earned the attention of prospects.

Earned or rented? Which seems better to you?

Which would produce the more qualified lead? Which would provide a prospect that you can continue to nurture and talk to over time? Which seems more efficient in terms of your marketing spend? To be fair, which seems harder to execute? Which would take longer to plan, set up and then optimize?

Let’s look at the pluses and minuses of renting vs. earning your prospects’ attention.

Renting Has Waste; Earning Has Less Waste

To explain this simply, consider the outdoor advertisement or billboard. You purchase these ads based on potential impressions. All advertising is purchased in this manner. Website banner ads, print ads, radio spots and even TV ads are all purchased based on the number of people who might see the ad. However, there’s a flaw in that model and you pay for it.

Consider the outdoor billboard. If 500,000 people drive on the highway every month, you pay for that number of impressions. But do 500,000 people see your ad? What about the people looking at the road and not the ad? What about the people looking at their phones and not the road or your ad? What about the people who have no need for what the ad is selling? Advertisers pay for all that waste and there is no way around it.

Instead of trying to interrupt the people driving by and attempting to get their attention within the 10 seconds you have while they fly by, we think it’s better to position your marketing to be visible when people actually looking for what you do are in the act of searching for what you do. This is how search works. People are searching for what you do, your business is visible, you have something interesting to say that grabs their attention, they visit your website and you offer them something of value during their visit. You earned their attention and now you have their contact information to continue the conversation.

Renting Is Easier; Earning Is Harder

In all honesty, people are always looking for the easy way through a situation. There is no question that buying advertising is easier. Renting attention is easier than earning it, so it’s not surprising that so many people still look to advertising to get their message out. In an afternoon, you can purchase lists, ad space and banner ads on websites. You can have your entire media plan done and paid for. Now, create the ads, place them and sit back.

Earning your prospects' attention is much harder because it has many more steps and requires a lot more strategic thinking. The first step is making sure your prospects can find you in ALL the places they’re already spending their time online. This takes time and won’t happen overnight. Once they find you and your messages are well crafted, they’ll want to learn more, visit your website and download your content.

Renting Is Faster; Earning Takes Longer

This is a big difference from traditional advertising. What can be placed overnight could take months to become visible. It’s going to be a lot more efficient and take a lot less money, but if you’re smart enough, you can focus your budget on helping your business be found. While this might take longer initially, it’s much more sustainable.

Once you attain visibility on search engines, referring sites or social media networks and you maintain these rankings, the returns keep coming. Yes, it’s going to take work to maintain your visitor traffic from these sites because your competitors are making moves here too, but you won’t have to continue to purchase advertising to remain relevant. The bottom line is that while it might take longer and be more challenging up front, it’s easier to maintain and much more efficient.

Renting Creates Very Little Value; Earning Creates Company Assets

When you rent your audiences, there is very little long-term value created for your company. You don’t own anything. You dont own names, contacts, info on your prospects or behavioral data on your marketing. This is a big difference between marketing today and the marketing we did 10 years ago. Today, you want a data-driven, response-focused marketing effort. Renting audience attention makes this challenging.

Today’s marketing is focused on collecting the email addresses, names, website information and company information on people who are interested in your company, your products or your services. You’re not offering iPads, trips to the Bahamas or new cars for their contact info. Instead, you’re promising to help them, to educate them and to advise them on their purchase decisions in exchange for their contact info. This contact info becomes a corporate asset that needs to be nurtured, kept clean and maintained.

Companies with large prospect databases are 10 times more effective at converting contacts into leads.

Renting Produces Limited Data; Earning Produces Actionable Data

One of the reasons companies are more effective at lead generation when they earn audience attention is they typically get a lot more information on their prospects. Good-quality offers that attract attention encourage prospects to share more information than typically available from a rental situation.

You might learn where the prospect is in their buyer journey. You might learn their purchase process. You might learn details associated with their situation and why they’re looking for a solution. All that data contributes to better marketing messages, more qualified prospects for the sales team and shorter sales cycles.

The secret to marketing in 2017 is access to data. The more information you have on the activities or behaviors of your prospects, the smarter your marketing gets, the more efficient your funnel and the closer you get to hitting your revenue projections.

Consider Your Options In 2017

You can see from the review that neither one is a slam dunk. In no way does one approach signal that the other is worthless. Instead, they both come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. However, if 2016 included declining performance of your traditional marketing tactics, if the leads from trade shows were down, if the email list purchases were not producing the same amount of leads or if your advertising was costing more and producing less, then it might be time to look at some other options.

It’s not unusual for strategies that produce positive results to take longer, require specialized skills or demand patience. More complex marketing tactics that have the potential to produce a scalable, repeatable, predictable marketing machine might be difficult to execute. But once mastered such tactics can provide a competitive advantage to your business that your competitors will have an equally difficult time mastering. This sustainable advantage could be the difference between hitting your 2017 revenue goals and missing them.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.